The highest peak in the Adirondacks and in New York State it is also one of only two 5000er in the entire range. Marcy can easily be described as one of the most visited remote peaks in the world. It lies well over 11km from the nearest trailhead and even the easiest trail can only be described as wet, rough and in sections quite steep. It can see weather that can rival the blows of New Hampshire's Mt. Washington, it is usually snow-covered from October to May and as the old Adirondack joke goes if you do not like the weather just wait 10 minutes and it will change.
Though nothing like the sculpted peaks of a high rage it does dominate the lower peaks around it and with over 250vm above the tree line which give it a rather isolated look. Especially when sitting in low clouds, which are very common in the area. In winter the peak is much more dramatic when 5 to 10m of snow gets get piled on making it look much higher than it is. A rather rounded peak with no clear ridgelines its one precipitous side is Panther Gorge well down and mostly hidden on its eastern flank.
Despite the length and quality of the trail the peak sees many thousands of people summit each year, well over 20,000 in 2000 most of course coming in the summer months. It makes a for a fairly hard 1 day trip in the summer with an early start and late finish as the shortest route is at least 12km gaining over 950vm one way. Most people opt for at least a partial walk in to the many camping areas nearer the peak and do it the next day.
The view is most likely the most outstanding in eastern North America with only one of the other 45 major peaks being totally hidden while the summits of 43 are clearly visible. The view of the Great Range falling off into the distance to the east is most impressive as is the panorama of the MacInyre range and Algonquin laid out to the west. To the north there is an impressive array of smaller peaks with the Whiteface and its small sibling Ester dominating the background. To the south and south west one gets a superb view of the wild area of the park with close up views of Grey & Skylight and the many tailless peaks far off in the distance.
On a clear day one can see Mont Royal in Montreal to the north (100km+) to the east the Green Mountains of Vermont (110+km) with Camel’s Hump clearly discernable. On a clear winter’s day one can se the White Mountains of New Hampshire poking up far to the South East (150km+). In winter it is said with small field glasses one can make out Mt. Washington in New Hampshire’s Presidential range though I haven’t seen this myself.
Like many great peaks it has suffered greatly from its own popularity. Over the past 30 years a good deal of the fragile artic vegetation above the tree line has been destroyed or disturbed by humans. Everything from the cutting of trees for firewood, soil compaction and erosion, littering, graffiti and even something as simple as stepping on the turf grass or picking the spring wild flowers has had a detrimental effect on the peak.
As a result of this destruction there are now permanent summit wardens on the peak during the summer months who are there to educate the ignorant on how to act on a high peak. This program and some rehabilitation efforts have been very successful and I have seen a great change in the way people behave on the summit and have seen the summit return to some of its past splendor.
Head to the Adirondack lodge which is 20 minutes outside of Lake Placid. NY. 2.5 hours from Montreal Canada.
There are no park fees but there is a small charge to use the parking lot. You can join the Adirondack Lodge and enjoy some benefits.
Sign in and out at the trail head. There is a Ranger station there. Showers are available for a small fee.
Yes there are many camp sites. You can book campsite some of which have lean-tos with tha Adirondack State park. Book early as they tend to (especially the most popular ones) fill up early during the peak season.
There are several around Lake Colden that are especially nice for a base. You can not camp outside the approved camping areas and not above 4,000 feet.
Stay on the trails above the tree line and avoid walking on the alpine vegetation which is very fragile.
Hang your food from a tree as bears are an issue.